Mel Kiper and Todd McShay -- the most outspoken bears about Tim Tebow's NFL potential -- have reconciled their cognitive dissonance and settled on Tebow as a 2nd-round pick.
Of course, they have to add the snarky bit that, even there, Tebow would be "a reach," but the fact is that any draft expert looks bad if their projection doesn't match reality.
And the reality is that Tim Tebow will be a 2nd-round pick.
Now, let me say something here for the first time: I, too, think that Tebow will be a 2nd-round pick.
For many months, I have been promoting the "Tebow as 1st-rounder" point. Even after the Senior Bowl. Why? Because I was convinced that the Jaguars would behave simultaneously irrationally (not picking the player they need on the field) and rationally (picking the player who best helps the franchise, in more ways than simply on the field) and take him at No. 10.
That was based on the presumption that Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver would overrule his GM and coach and insist the team take Tebow. However, that was also based on the idea that Weaver's decision would have popular support.
I was blown away by the feedback from Jags season-ticket holders that they do not approve of the team drafting Tebow -- presumably with that No. 10 overall pick. It doesn't matter that the vote was nearly 50/50; Weaver needed it to be 80/20, with 80 percent in favor.
It also doesn't matter that there are plenty of non-season-ticket holders who would buy tickets if Tebow was on the team. Season-ticket holders are a better proxy for fan interest and support.
Without that kind of populist back-up, I don't see Weaver insisting his GM take Tebow at No. 10. And without that pressure, I don't think the GM takes Tebow at 10 -- not when the team has so many other needs that would potentially be better-served with a different player at No. 10.
Without the Jaguars taking him at 10, I don't see a team -- under the current draft order (meaning: barring a trade-up on draft day) -- taking Tebow in the 1st round. It is too much guaranteed money for, fairly or unfairly assessed, an uncertain return.
ALL THAT SAID...
I think that Tebow will go right at the top of the 2nd round. The new draft format means that when the 1st round is over on Thursday night, there will be an entire news cycle of crazy build-up before the 2nd round starts on Friday.
Teams -- at least one team -- will talk themselves into trading up to the top of the 2nd round for Tebow, before someone else can grab him. Every pick that goes by in the 2nd will only amplify that pressure. (If a team knows they DON'T want Tebow and are picking at the top of the 2nd, they can seriously get a deal with a team that wants to trade up to get him.)
Here is another huge implication: Outside of the 1st round, the contracts get substantially smaller -- and entirely unguaranteed. This mitigates much of the risk of drafting Tebow that will keep teams away in the 1st round (beyond their interest in drafting other positions).
It also means that the field of potential teams to draft him expands way beyond the Jaguars -- who, it should be pointed out, don't have a 2nd-round pick. But the Patriots have THREE of them (longtime readers know that I think the Pats are the best fit for Tebow). The Bills will want him. The Panthers may want him. The Redskins might take him.
ALL THAT SAID...
There is still the chance for Tebow to work himself into the 1st round. We are a week away from Tebow's "Pro Day," which will only improve his stock -- the buzz coming out of that will be huge. Individual workouts and competing spin through the major sports news outlets will only increase the buzz -- to the point where a team that doesn't want to wait for the top of the 2nd round might very well trade up into the 1st to take him.
But the more realistic scenario is that Tebow will fall through the 1st round and into the 2nd round -- and, make no mistake, Tebow NOT being drafted (and STILL being available) will be a bigger story than any single 1st-round draft pick. And there will be a scrum to get him at the top of the 2nd. And, I should add, I still believe he will be worth that high of a valuation.
It is funny that the market appears to have settled -- between the most bullish (me) and the least (Kiper, McShay) -- at Tebow being a 2nd-rounder. The draftniks seem to do it begrudgingly -- if they got paid for every caveat, they could retire after the draft is over. I think the market will only heat up overnight between the 1st and 2nd round, putting him at the top of the 2nd.
Not to strain the rationalization, but that's actually a heck of a lot more interesting than the simplified notion of the Jags taking him at No. 10 and that's that.
(Credit where it's due: I first broke my new perspective on the Kissing Suzy Kolber podcast last night. I keep it clean but some other parts of the podcast are a little salty.)